Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things by Watchman Nee – Review

I used to always think of “going deep” in my walk with Jesus as being in the direction of apologetics, specifically in science, history, language or other more tangible spheres. Nee, however, shows abundantly how lacking I am in spiritual depth. The concept of “Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things” is simple and is basically repeated throughout this book: Christ doesn’t GIVE us things like peace, healing, patience, etc., Christ IS our peace, healing, patience, etc. I can easily see how we can work at and achieve some semblance of life without Christ, but trying to grasp Christ BEING our life is hard to grasp. I have a lot of growing to do and I’m thankful for wise men in the history of Christianity, such as Nee, to help guide me.

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The Man Who Was Thursday – A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton ~ Review

A page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat with every scene. There is something very intriguing about each of the characters that keeps you wondering “OK? And then what?” or “What? Weird….why?” from page to page and chapter to chapter. As one one mystery is uncovered, it only leads to another until you’re on the last page waiting for a grand wrap-up, an “aha” moment that explains the whole cockamamy thing and then the credits are rolling and I’m blinking and I look at my wife with a confused face and say “What a fun, but weird little story. But…I think I missed it”. Reading other reviews, I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt this way. Some people have said in disgust “Chesterton must have been on acid, pass this up” but after having read some of his other works, I believe the misunderstanding here is entirely on my inability to grasp the poetic presentation of a philosophically driven allegory.

“Blessed Child” by Ted Dekker – Review

I’m learning that I am simply not a fan of Ted Dekker. Not because I disagree with his beliefs or anything, but because I find his writing to be a bit simple and his characters one-dimensional. (Ex. He uses colloquialisms outside of character dialogue. Also, in this book anyway, he refers to microphones as “mikes” – maybe this is shame on the editors too, but the term is short for microphone and should be “mic”, etc.) Originally I thought he was an improved Frank Peretti – a Christian writer who wrote about scary things but he had a better imagination. I’m thinking, though his books are many times better than the Left Behind series, he’s not any better a writer than Peretti.
Anyway, enough about Ted, what did I think of Blessed Child?
As I mentioned above, the characters (mostly Jason and Leiah) we kind of one-dimensional and sort of movie-cliche ish. I liked the innocence and belief of Caleb but he just seemed too perfect, too good to be an actual boy.
The arc of the story tries to take some non-believers not just to belief, but into a more charismatic Christianity where people are healed from sickness and death which I find to be very difficult subject to try and tackle in fiction. I would hate for a brand new Christian to read this and then wonder why he or she isn’t taken to a mountain-top for an acid-trip like experience with God.
My take away from this novel (which is almost counter to the ‘healing from stage’ message) was “Whoever said that a straightened hand was more dramatic than a healed heart anyway?” (the character Dr. Paul Thompson)

Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams

Adams has an almost scientific attention to the details of rabbit life and nature. He mentions more animal and plant species than Darwin did in “Origin…” and brings you right into the passing days and nights on the downs of England. I was continually fascinated by Adams’ anthropomorphism and fictional adventure that never betrayed his careful understanding of actual rabbit behavior.
I was driven by a continual ‘OK, where are we going with this?’ feeling spurred by the subtle mystery of Hazel’s ‘reluctant hero’ personality and budding leadership. But if you’ve started the book and get bored, press on! Part 2 is where things really pick up. By the end of the book I felt like Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, Pipkin, etc. were all old friends. I’m also impressed by the Lapine language and when and how the rabbits use it. Great read if you’r in one of those ‘take me away to another world’ moods.

 

Review of The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson 12-3-15

As Christians we argue over the best methods to evangelize. We debate over the Cessationists vs. the Charismatics, Calvinism vs. Armenianism, Creation vs. Evolution. I’ve been a part of many of these tense “discussions” and really can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone change their stance on any issue. For time I was reading a lot of Creationist literature and found myself astounded by the scientific evidence for Creation. I thought, ‘if only Evolutionists, atheists and the like knew this stuff, surely they would change their mind.’ However, in instances where I saw these ‘silver-bullet’ Creationist ideas being used, I was surprised to see the opponent not only unchanged, but seemingly even more stalwart in their stance. Finally I realized (with the help of other writers, etc.) that a mountain of evidence in any debate means nothing when someone has a presupposition toward something (they will simply interpret all evidences through the lens of their presupposition). So I wondered, ‘if the most amazing scientific facts can’t convince someone, what can?’. The answer, I believe, is something like this from this unheard-of preacher, published in 1908. It’s simply looking deep into this Jesus we claim to believe is the Son of God. It is a methodical, piece by piece study of every attribute of the Lord that we can possibly garner from scripture. When we quit practicing our Christianity looking horizontally human to human and look heavenward toward the Christ, our batteries are finally recharged, we are set ablaze and we actually WANT to share our faith. Books like this (and AW Tozer’s The Attributes of God) revive my love for Jesus.

Review of “Simplicity” by Mark Salomon 4-28-15

Mark demonstrates how his years in a Christian band, even in the punk scene, grew him to realize the entire industry called “Christian Music” or “Christian Record Label” or “Christian whatever” is basically a sham. Over his years in the band The Crucified he realized that he & the band were being put on a pedestal and expected to be pastors or perfect role models.

This book was highly interesting to me as I was intensely interested in “Christian Music” in high school and college and particularly in the scene that Mark’s bands & involvements were in (The Crucified, Stavesacre, Tooth & Nail Records, etc.) I was like the number one supporter of all Christian bands, radio, record labels, magazines, etc. Over time I realized that it would be far more beneficial if most (most, not all!) of these bands were just going out into the music industry the way any secular band would. Sink or swim, it would on the one hand be more challenging to musician’s talent and professionalism, and on the other, an infiltration of believers into the general music industry*. Sure, it would make it much more difficult for parents to make sure their kids only hear wholesome stuff, but think about the non-believers who would be exposed good music that was made by people who were, at the heart driven by The Spirit (even if they never actually mention Jesus in their songs or had alter calls at their concerts!) This is exactly the train of thought, I believe, that Mark is getting across in this book.

Also, this book is fun for someone who has listened to Stavesacre since the 90’s and has a Crucified album laying around at home. I loved hearing the back story of Mark’s journey in music. I hope he writes again because it would be great to hear more about Staveacre (this book was mostly about The Crucified years) I am also very curious about his involvement in CHATTERbOX and Argyle Park and he never even mentioned Outer Circle!

Altogether a great read, especially if you were ever into Christian music, more so the edgier stuff.

 

*I think in the decades since the 90’s there is more of trend in this direction.

Review of “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” by John Piper

Although I disagree with Piper’s Calvinistic views, I have otherwise found him to be a solid teacher of the Bible. I admire the authority and respect that he hold for the Word. That being said, his speaking/writing are little more dull to me than other favorite writers or speakers.
Desiring God’s over-arching theme is one I kind of thought I would agree on from the outset and finishing the book, I, for the most part still do agree. It’s kind of funny though, because I think Piper was addressing lots of critics of what he terms “Christian Hedonism” and so the reader automatically feels like they are opposing him and you’re being thoroughly debated even if you agree with him! I completely agree that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever”. I feel like using the term “Hedonism” (even though he gives good reason in the last Appendix) is a little off base. It seems he has garnered unneeded controversy over using that term when he simply could have said it another way.

Review of “It’s All Downhill from Here: On the Road with Project 86″_2-11-15

I’ve been listening to Project 86 since their first or second record and finally made it to see them live in 2004 (I think it was) At that show as I was purchasing a T-Shirt I think I met Andrew Schwab as he was promoting his new book. Finally over 10 years later I got around to reading the book. Initially I expected it to be something more philosophical, but as I read it, I discovered it to be more¬† of memoir of touring with P86. Andrew’s stories had me literally laughing out loud! I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at band life. I felt a kinship with Andrew as he described his frustrations with band mates and dating situations.

The real kicker that pushed this book from a fun 3 star read to a 4 out of 5 star rating was the last chapter titled “Why I Do What I Do”. He tells the ironic story of being judged by Christians before a show and then after the show helping a kid addicted to heroin find the hope to keep him hanging on to life. Its a moment that suddenly validates Project 86’s reason for being and inspires me to chase my dreams and use my talents to point people to Jesus!

Nickel’s Fortune by Stephen Wallace_reviewed 8-19-14

Nickkel's Fortune

A complex, layered story –¬† Stephen Wallace relates the tale of a simple, common man, Theo Devereaux, who works with his family business and their dealings with an elite, genetically modified race of people called the Syntaxians. Set in the year 3045, Wallace paints a clear picture of the world post “science-wars” in which the Syntaxians live in a scientifically achieved and segregated utopia. Regular humans are scattered through the remnants of Earth that is left in sort of a post-apocalyptic and abandoned ruin. Finally, the antithesis of the genetically perfected people is race of mutants called The Ferals, where genetic engineering has gone horribly wrong.
Amid the ongoing conflict between theses races, Theo stumbles upon a beautiful woman he calls Nikki, with no memory and a deep romance ensues. During their time together they are confronted with the undeniable horrors of the dark side of the Syntaxian’s scientific meddling and the Devereaux family decides to put a stop to the madness. The story that unfolds is unpredictable and takes you on a colorful adventure in Theo and Nikki’s relationship, meeting his family and traversing the rugged landscape.
Wallace’s future world is full of action and adventure, spiced up with clever gadgets and vehicles, vivid with exotic locales and colorful characters.
I loved this escape into a fantasy sci-fi world.

The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton _reviewed 4-8-13

Not knowing what this book was about I picked up because I read Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and loved it. The introduction told me it was basically the fiction account of the fight between a Christian and and atheist and so I expecting it to be largely a debate between the two. Instead you are lead on the continuous journey of the two men who are trying literally duel it out with swords.
Chesterton’s writing is magnetizing and draws you in with a zig-zag and circle-around approach to describing a situation. He often begins a chapter by re-describing a character from a different approach leaving the reveal for several sentences in.
The story is very unpredictable and the scenes are rich and luscious, and I would suggest ready for the cinema.An entertaining and thought-proving read!